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Funding falling short as need for social services rises

"We can't afford to be quiet anymore. We have to show people that without us, lots of people in our community would go hungry, some of them may become homeless, and our community would be worse off," said Chris O'Gorman, a director at the Caldwell Family Centre.
2020-01-29 homelessness rally ottawa2
A crowd rallies in support of a motion to call for a housing and homelessness emergency at Ottawa City Hall, January 29, 2020. Chris Kurys/ CityNews Ottawa

Over the past three years, the Caldwell Family Centre has seen a 200 per cent increase in the need for their services. But as government emergency COVID-19 funding comes to and end, the need remains high.

"During the pandemic, community organizations received additional emergency funding, and we used that funding to sort of meet the growing need," said director of development and community for Caldwell Family Centre (CFC) Chris O'Gorman on The Sam Laprade Show. "Now that this funding is ending, the need hasn't gone away, we're not back to our pre-pandemic numbers, we are 200 per cent more."

Serving 5,400 people in the Ottawa area annually, CFC had a quarter million visits (250,000) from their clients in 2022 through their food and meal services, clothing depot, Christmas assistance program, school supply program and their drop-in support services.

And O'Gorman doesn't see those number coming down.

As the inflation crisis trundles on, CFC is seeing clients who got back on their feet with the help of their services are now returning for support once again.

"It's heartbreaking to see people who maybe were more independent now coming back," said O'Gorman. "They know that they can rely on the services here but but they need them because things are just so expensive nowadays."

The CFC rely heavily on support from the community and grants, which make up three-quarters of their revenue, and a lot of that grant funding will be coming to an end. The other 25 per cent comes from the city. 

"So, what we need is the city of Ottawa, the province of Ontario and the federal government to really step up and make sure that we don't have to start closing programming," said O'Gorman. "We can't let people go hungry in our community, but we also need the funding to make that happen."

O'Gorman adds, by doing this work, his organization and others like it are saving the city money at the end of the day.

Pointing to figures from the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, O'Gorman said one person staying homeless comes at a cost of more than $35,000 a year for the city.

"Just last year, we helped eight people stay in their homes successfully," said O'Gorman. "That saves the taxpayer close to $280,000 a year."

Caldwell Family Centre and other social services organizations are called upon by the city to do this sort of work. Without the additional funding it will be difficult to keep it up, said O'Gorman.

"We can't afford to be quiet anymore. We have to show people that without us, lots of people in our community would go hungry, some of them may become homeless, and our community would be worse off."

Listen to the entire interview with Chris O'Gorman on The Sam Laprade Show below.

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